February 26, 2005

Bushfires in Melrose place

It has been very hot and dry lately in Leijonakaupunki. They say its one of the hottest Februaries in the history of the country. We had about 500 bush fires since the beginning of the year and the air is becoming really bad - stuffy, smoky, dirty, ashes flying everywhere.. Almost every afternoon it starts smelling as if your neighbour is preparing sauna and then it turns really stinky. Funnily enough, I always thought that bush fires are very dangerous, spread very fast (and happen mostly in Australia). But in here I don't think they're so life threatening for humans (except for the smoke). Usually they're isolated and put off by efficient Leijonakaupungilaisten fire brigades. Have a look at the official reports by THE media company.


Otherwise, life is pretty normal. We have unbelievable amount of training sessions at work. This picture is taken at the TGP workshop. See how everyone is smiling happily? Looks like much of fun, but in fact all this organizational and educational planning stuff is very tough. For example, TGP is Target Graduate Profile and it is related to the fact that we are developing a new diploma course. So what we do, is first to define what kind of person should be graduating from IMD (Interactive Media Design) and MOI (Moving Images) programs, then we see how the new curriculum should match this profile and what kind of courses we should offer. The TGP involves not only basic knowledge and skills, but also "character" related stuff, like the graduate should be "enterprising", "curious", "opinionated". So then we have to think how these qualities are taught or incorporated in the teaching.. Complicated, but this still looks very systematic to me. Very different from Media Lab, as it felt to be so "naturally growing" (and much more confusing?) for me. But, of course, Media Lab is a completely different kind of place, it is research oriented and student interest driven. The Lab is like a mature "garden", TP is like "tree nursery" (not really a "factory", I'd say). Still its good to discover that these kinds of things can be planned and designed (yeah, THE word!)


Otherwise as I promised to tell more about the Melrose place style intrigues, here it comes. There is a certain level of friction in the IMD and the whole school. There's 5 new staff hired since December (me included) and we're all very blue-eyed, enthusiastic and energetic (and coincidentally much younger than the rest of people). Naturally we tend to flock together, when it comes to having lunch or coffee or sharing the opinions. However, the bigest difference between us and the old staff is that when the director tells us "jump", we jump happily. While the older staff may have opinions, may not believe things or even oppose (!) some of the directors proposals. Some of the younger colleagues have been told by some older staff (not from our course though) that "why you doing it so fast lah. relax. don't push it, so you'll look busy". So this younger colleague was so mad about it... Anyway, this division between old-new, old-young is probably very strategic - the director can push the older staff to do things (we're very threatening for them -, if we do the same things so fast, is there a need to keep somebody who does it slow or doesn't do it at all?). He can also make us do things, because we're so happy to contribute as we're so new. Ah.. Old Caesar was right, wasn't he? (I'm referring to divide and rule strategy.. haha)

Posted by gkligyte at 12:09 PM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2005

Bali Country Club


Time for another travel adventure story.. It has been 2 weeks since we came from Bali and it feels like eternity, really.. Nothing to remind of the good time we had in there except these pics.. I've been quite busy at work - the end of the semester approaches and we have to start preparing the launch of the new course. So we're going through TGP training (Target Graduate Profile), next week is JAE (Joint Admission Exercise) that is different from JPAE (Joint Polytechnic Admission Exercise) and after that we have DeAE (Design Admission Exercise). So when the students receive their "O" levels results, we have to make sure that they have not failed EL (English Language!!! They have accronym for that too!!!), etc.. I'm slowly getting used to some of the acronyms used in TP (he he), but sometimes I'm completely overwhelmed (or as people here say "blur about everything").


Anyway, coming back to our Bali trip, first of all we went to the Dreamlands beach, the famous surfer paradise. We've been there last year and that time I barely could enter the ocean. The waves were too big, literally wrapping and sucking me in. This time, my "surfing" lessons in Desaru helped me big time (hmm.. maybe the waves were slightly smaller too..). So we spent hours surfing on a bugi-boards and its a whole new experience.. If you have a chance, don't slack on the beach, try surfing! Its great fun!! The nature and the ocean are still allmighty, can't really count how many times I was smashed to the shore, how much sand I collected in my hair and ears, how many times the ocean was twirling me around - left arm here, foot there, bugi-board overthere, bikini elsewhere... I'm a total surfer convert. Don't know if I'll ever be standing on the board, but I was already riding quite huge waves (Kaj said that one time he said "good bye" to me mentaly when he saw me riding one, but I happily emerged and was carried some 20m in this incredible speed..)


Dreamlands is probably one of the most beautiful places on Earth that I have ever been to. The Earth plate just breaks there, there're hundreds, thousands of kilometers of Indian Ocean ahead and you can really feel how the Ocean breathes.. You're completely overwhelmed by the power, the beauty.. ah.. everything...


We stayed at Wayang's place last year too, he has a house on the very edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. (Btw, Balinese people call their first babies Wayang, second Made, etc. Of course, it means the First, the Second, etc. So you usually meet countless Wayangs and Mades on your way in Bali). Time schedule in Dreamlands: wake up in the morning, have breakfast in the balcony, swim the whole day, have dinner under the stary sky and fall sleep soothed by the sound of the ocean.. Last year the sound of the ocean waves was so strong, that we found it difficult to fall asleep. At nights the Dreamlands is quite deserted. There's really not much to do, but surf during the day..


It was nice to come to Bali for the 3rd time (4th for Kaj!). This time it really felt like going to the mökki (trobele). We knew the places and our way around, people remembered us, Wayang, for example, got a baby since the last time we saw him.. It didn't seem weird or exotic, but just plain nice (he he, almost wrote plain rice :). We didn't get a jetlag, didn't fall sick, everything was so wonderfully normal and simple.


It felt the same in Ubud. We stayed in Sania's house again and although it was fully booked, we got a room, because we were "loyal customers". Ubud is supposed to be the "cultural center" of Bali. Although you're constantly reminded that it is just a huge theater staged to lure tourists and their money, there's a lot of magic and feeling of the lost paradise Miyasaki style. So green, humid, lots of carved stone sculptures that immediately grow moss to look as if they're centuries old.


We walked in the rice padis and you can see how green and beautiful it is, no need to explain, right?



However as we wanted to see something new, we hired a car (and a driver, think about it, how colonialist!) and went over the mountains, not the road where all the tourists are usually herded, but the less explored one. Naturally, there was less to explore there.. :)


We still managed to see some interesting and "touristy" stuff, like this temple. Each roof is supposed to symbolize different levels of Heaven. Supposed to be 12, but I can count only 11 for some reason. There are temples with 7 roofs and each time they symbolize something else. However this time we didn't have a talkative "tour-guide" to enlighten us.. The whole island keeps to Hindu religion, but is surrounded by predominantly Islamic islands. Did you know that Indonesia is the largest Muslim country?


We also went to hot springs at the other end of the island.

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It was quite a funny experience to swim in some 40C degrees warm water stinking of sulphur (rotten eggs) while it was about 35C degrees outside. It felt good however. Warmth doesn't break the bones (Lithuanians say). Kaj almost drowned as you can see, but we managed to get out of the place alive.. As we were driving in the places less frequented by tourists, we saw completely different face of Bali. Not the "country club" type with 5 star hotels,back-packers, half dressed (half undressed?) bimbos, "tour guides", "drivers", geriatric tourists, but a place where people live, earn their money through honest and hard work and don't really care about the tourists that much..


On the way back we got into a huge cloud covering the mountains and once again it was quite cold. Some 22C degrees, maybe. I'm sure we'll go to Bali again and again. It is such a beautiful and small island. We could send you there too, if you come for a visit to Leijonakaupunki.. :)

Posted by gkligyte at 06:54 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2005

Emergency Relief

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We have received some Finnish food emergency relief aid this week!! Ruisleipaaaaa!!! (rugines duonoooos!!) Ja poronlihaaaa!!! (ir siaures elnienos!!!) Jokko came by to Leijonakaupunki on a work-related trip and was very kind to bring this good stuff to us.. Waaah, so tasty!!! Besides that he did another good deed. I have to admit that I was loosing a bit of motivation to write this blog lately. I stopped seeing weird stuff about this society and writing cool stories about our amazing trips started feeling a little bit useless. However Jokko told that I have this fan circle in Finland who actually like following our adventures. So now I'm very re-energized (ha, ruisleipa and sisu started flowing in my veins again!) and I try to make-up for the stuff that I/you/we missed last weeks. Sorry about that..


It is really suprising how fun is to hang out with someone from Finland. The truth is that we with Kaj don't have too many friends here and spend so much time together that can almost read each others' minds. The local people here are very orderly and sensible. It is so refreshing to talk to someone who has life outside of this country (he he..)


Last Saturday there was Chingay parade that we with Kaj didn't see, because we were in some nova-bossanova star Cibelle concert with Monika and Roland. However, we managed to catch the preview party on Friday. Jokko was taking all his pictures with his mobile phone.


And he continued doing so when we went to Botanical gardens on Sunday too. He he...


Then we went to have foot massage and we were all squirming in the firm grip of these middle-aged blind masseurs. Wah, it was a good afternoon! Come, people, come, see how much fun it is?

Otherwise, Jokko was asking and I noticed that many people actually don't know really what kind of place I'm working at. Yong has been working on the new website of the Temasek Design School and I think it gives a much better idea about the school than the previous one. Check it out. As I came from holiday last Tuesday, we got to know that Ministry of Education finally aproved Moving Images diploma course. Meaning that we'll be running 2 diplomas starting from May. There was a lot of uncertainty about the whole situation, first the Interactive Media Design course hired lots of people (5 new staff all together!!), but the ministry was very late to approve the proposal for the new course. So if you look back to my posts around Christmas I was wondering what is going to happen to all of us as there's not much of work.. No problem about that anymore.. Everybody is terribly stressed out, but I am quite happy that we get to do something, however hasty the whole situation is. Would have been such a pity to waste the whole year just waiting for something to happen... This semester i had only 6 hours teaching, next semester I have 22!!! I feel moderately busy with 6 hours teaching, I wonder how it will go with 22...

We have lots of beautiful pictures from Bali, but I will try to write our travel adventures in another entry. Now its getting quite late.. But here's a preview picture, isn't it beautiful?!?

Posted by gkligyte at 01:24 PM | Comments (4)

February 07, 2005

Kaitsu's underwater adventure


Kaj's birthday is approaching (its in fact tomorrow! Waah!!!), but because his birthday is such a huge thing, it lasts 15 days (like Chinese New Year). He he.. It started last weekend when Kaj got his suprise dive in the Leijonakaupunki underwater world shark tank (the picture is from the outside of the tank and the fish is not a shark). There's this kind of tunnel where you can walk and watch the fish from below, but you can also get inside of this tank. We did and it was amazing - the fish in the nature is quite evasive, they don't care about the divers and tend just to swim away, annoyed. But these sharks and especially the eagle rays were so cuddly! As I got into the tank I got this unexpected bump on my head, guess what - there was an eagle ray swimming above and being a little bit "pushy".. So you could really touch the rays, the sharks, the moray eels (a no no in the nature).. You could give a big hug to a sleeping leopard shark, just drag it along as a huge teddy bear... And all this, because they knew well that we had some delicious bites. The eagle rays were going wild swarming around and brushing against our hands, heads and what not. The big wrasses almost chewed off my fingers, so eager they were.. It was really great.. However artificial and non-realistic the whole setting was, it was great to feel the affection of these beautiful creatures (although just because we had food..)


Here's kaj signing off all the responsibility and you can see that he's a bit worried - he'll get thrown into the shark pool soon.. But I don't have pictures of the great smiles that we both had on our faces once we emerged from the water...

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Then we continued to the Little India for a good curry and we encountered the famous Sunday "foreign workers" crowds. All these people (all men) are there just to meet their friends and relatives. They stand on the grass field and "talk talk, do nothing, just stand and chat with each other" as one of our Chinese taxi drivers described.. Which has "xenophobia" written all over... People get to Little India by charter busses from their companies (from faraway suburbs). We were delighted to see Roland's (Monika's husband's) company's CibaVision bus full of workers in there too.. :)

We're going to Bali tomorrow so there will be no entries at least till next Tuesday.. Come back a bit later...

Posted by gkligyte at 09:29 PM | Comments (2)

February 05, 2005

Chinese New Year and the Brave Lecturer


Preparations for Chinese New Year (Lunar new year) are gearing up and it is a much more serious thing than Christmas or westerners' New Year. Now just checked the calendar, there's no relation to Uzgavenes (Laskiainen).. If celebrated properly, it includes family reunion, distributing a lot of "hong bao", red packets containing money, sharing mandarines, tossing raw fish salad up to the ceiling, gambling, playing majong, cards, setting off firecrackers, etc... Everything just to make the coming year prosperous and good. People don't seem to have reservations about desiring material goods: prosperous = successful = happy. Most of the supersticious stuff is meant to scare the evil spirits away, for me it sounds a bit horrible - living in the world full off demons, ghosts.. I chatted with my colleague who converted to Catholicism few years ago, she said that the world and you prospects in another world are very grim according to Taoism religion.. There's just hell, no salvation, you suffer for your sins and thats about it. So she found the ideas of "another life", "god", "love" very refreshing and inspiring..


Anyway, people are shopping like crazy again, Takashumaya shopping mall transformed itself once again... During the actual New Year 9-10 February almost all the businesses are closed and there's not much to do if you don't have a huge family to visit, so we're going to Bali.. For a week.. Again.. I'm really looking forward to that. Monsoon is getting over here, it hasn't been raining for couple of weeks, the weather is really hot, the grass already turned burned brown and leaves are falling off the trees.. Will be nice to get out of the city.. We're leaving on next Tuesday.


Andrea asked me why I'm not writing anything about my work to the blog, in fact, yes, why am I not wrriting? Partially maybe because of the same old "self-censoring", but there's not much bad to say about my job, so, really, why not...

Well, its been 2 months now and I feel that I know the place much better. I don't have much teaching hours this semester, only 6. I have 2 classes of Multimedia Fundamentals (students learn to do simple webpages in this class, very simple indeed) once a week, so the rest of the time I am "developing myself" or working on some "projects". The biggest surprise for me was the attitude of the students - many of them are quite young, still living with their parents and sent to the design school by parents too. So we spent quite a bit of time "shaping their attitudes" and "developing the character" (hehe...), meaning, making a serious show and "talking to" about people being late or not showing up in classes.. This was very new for me, because both in Arts Academy in Lithuania and in Taik many of the people tried to enter the school many times before they finally succeeded. So by the time they start studying, they're really quite sure about their "call" and "artistic talent" and they really know what they want. It is completely different here. If your parents pay the fees, you don't have problems entering SOME design school. As far as I know, in TP (our school) , the competition is still quite tight - 3 people to 1 place or so.. But this is also the place where people finally get out of school uniforms, sense the freedom, hormones are raging.. So yes, we have a lot of "attitude problems"..

I'm still very humane, other lecturers say that "just don't bother", "give them a lesson" and it may be true that teaching some discipline could be useful for them in the future. But I still think about them as my "flower bed" that I need to nurture and take care of. I'm sure some are taking advantage of that. However, when I think about my best teachers and best experiences of somebody's "mentoring", it is always this terribly humane person who treats us like adults and respects us. So I try that, if it doesn't work, I'll turn into a monster with a whip..


This is Botero in Leijonakaupunki, not OUR Botero, another one.. What are you thinking?! OUR Botero seems to have dropped quite a few kilos off, this one has slightly too much.. :) Anyway, this is not even Andrea's uncle Botero (although her uncle is also a sculptor), just a famous Colombian artist having his exhibition.. This reminds me that I have couple of Finnish exchange students from Laurea in my class and they're gradually turning to be of this color. Every week I see them, they're slightly more brown and I have to tell, it takes any desire to get a suntan away from me.. Suntan makes people look old and wrinkly.. I'm trying to preserve my natural pale looks (so I blend in with the crowd better.. Chinese people are very pale here)

These 2 Finnish girls made my life difficult up till last week. I was really suprised, when I first came to Finland i was shocked to find out how STRONG a woman was supposed to be in there. All the women that I met there were extremely capable, strong and self-sufficient. So I learned that when you have a problem, you don't go to ask for help right away, but you try all the possible things to sort it out yourself. Then when you finally ask for help, you may say that "I tried this and this and that.. nothing works". But these girls seemed to be completely helpless. They were explaining (in very LOUD voices), how they "don't understand anything" (imagine this pitch of voice), they "don't see any point in doing that" and that "they don't know where they are at and what they're trying to achieve, but they're just doing-doing something". This was really driving me mad and bringing bad vibes to the class, so last Thursday I started urging them (one was quite ok, but another was really helpless) "be more adventurous, try to do something, don't just assume that you can't", then sat down with one of them for 15min and it seemed to be enough to get her on track. So right now I'm quite proud about myself handling class dynamics and "breaking" bad students' attitudes.. hehe.. However, I'm surprised to encounter that type of Finnish female species.. Never saw those in Finland..

Apart from teaching, I'm also involved in several "projects", but maybe I'll write about that another time. However, it seems that I'm already (unwittingly) involved in "office politics" and just backstabbed (without an intention, believe me!) one of my colleagues who's on long medical leave.. Melrose place to be continued.. Come later for more..

Posted by gkligyte at 08:33 PM